There’s Nothing Like Australia!

Interesting fact:
This blog was started on the 19th of April, 2002 when I was living in Melbourne

kangaroo

I’ve lived in Australia for 4 years while doing my college and uni. I’ve also stayed in other places while growing up but nothing beats Australia in my heart. I’ve always loved the place and have been back three times since graduating! :)

It’s a great country that has a bit of everything due to its unique location – you’ve got the temperate climates to the north to the infamous 4-seasons-in-a-day weather in Melbourne, towards the south. This makes it the perfect place for adventure lovers – there is a wide variety of activities to suit all tastes.

surfing byron

…and the things to do!

carving

I like to travel around and experience new things and I did a lot of that while I was there. Hands down my favorite is snowboarding – Mount Buller in Victoria is where I learned skiing and snowboarding when I was there.

sea kayaking

There’s also sea kayaking in Byron Bay, New South Wales where you power over the surf and get to watch dolphins and sometimes even whales migrating. I thought that was a lot of fun!

katoomba

If you love running, don’t miss the Six Foot Track 45 kilometer super marathon from Katoomba to the Blue Mountains in New South Wales. It’s Australia’s largest 100% off-road running event.

bridge climb

Australia also boasts of having two of the three legal bridge climbs in the world. Well, you can technically climb bridges anywhere but you’ll be liable to a fine or jail time. Heh. Or you can do it legally at Sydney Harbour Bridge and Brisbane’s Story Bridge.

camels

Highlighting the pure diversity of Australia, there are also camels in the “outback” – the desert interior. These are the only feral herds of their kind in the world. You can have a camel safari right at the outback! Bet you didn’t know that about Australia! :)

sand dunes australia

The Stockton Sand Dunes near Port Stephens are some of the largest sand dunes in the entire Southern Hemisphere. It can go up to 1 kilometer wide and 30 meters high at some places.

There’s also an abundance of nature activities and magnificent vistas in the Land Down Under:

It’s a very beautiful country – there’s the Great Ocean Walk between 12 Apostles and Apollo Bay. It’s Victoria’s (the state Melbourne is in) premier long-distance walking track where you get to see the tallest cliffs in mainland Australia, waterfalls cascading down limestone walls, ancient shipwrecks, Aboriginal middens and manna gums with resident koala populations.

I’ve heard that the 12 Apostles (rock stacks in the ocean) are steadily getting eroded so it would be a good idea to go visit soon!

12 apostles

Of course, there’s also Phillip Island with its unique population of little penguins. You can see the cute little things landing on Summerland Beach every evening during the “penguin parade”. Photography is permitted but no flash is allowed coz you’ll scare them off.

Lake Eyre in South Australia is another popular destination – it’s one of the world’s largest salt pans and since it only fills up a few times a century, it’s drying up fast so this is another one to go for before it completely dries up. There are scenic flights over the lake.

sydney

There’s really something for everyone in Australia and while I’m talking about adventure and the outdoors over here (it’s what I’m into) there are a myriad of other activities for those who have interests that lies elsewhere. I haven’t touched even a tiny portion of what’s available for adrenaline lovers Down Under.

crab

Shopping, dining (the best crab meal I’ve had was on a chartered river cruise in NSW), or just plain sightseeing, there’s a newly revamped portal at australia.com for you to browse through and decide what you want to do before you go.

uluru

The amazing thing is that every article in that extremely detailed website is also translated into perfect Bahasa Malaysia! There are also other language options and I found the new tourism video to be very aspirational – it’s the one that I titled this post after and you can see it right at the main page of australia.com

aboriginal dance

Cheers and I hope that you’ll come to love the country where I spent about 1/3 of my adult life living in as much as I do! :)

Skydiving and sea kayaking at Byron Bay & Beyond

skydive byron bay

Well, there’s something to be said about starting your day by leaping off a plane 14,000 feet in the air.

Skydiving first thing in the morning followed by some sea kayaking action. I have to admit, I was probably the first one up and went knocking to wake some others that day. We were certainly the first boots on ground at the meeting point at the hotel lobby. Heh!

I was still half asleep when I signed the indemnity form.

byron bay skydive

The Tourism NSW and AirAsia X people were kind enough to see if they can get me into a custom solo AFF since I’ve been through the course before but unfortunately, it was too late. They only have tandem packages on the regular menu, so we all got into the tandem skydive at 14,000 feet (highest you can go in Australia) courtesy of Skydive Byron Bay.

harness

I didn’t film myself coz I had gone through all these before but Alycia did so look at her video to see what it’s like! She also wrote about her experience here.

It was a lot of fun for me since I haven’t skydived in Byron Bay before (and certainly not in autumn) but it gave me this idea about jumping out of a plane without a parachute.

Have you seen the video?

There’s actually two people who has done it before and contrary to popular belief, you don’t just need to have balls of (forged) steel to do it. You’ll need some training as well, so you can maneuver and not slam into the other person in midair.

That would probably involve a lot of dying since most people pass out when they crash into each other in midair at terminal velocity and thus would be unable to deploy their chute, much less do a tandem harness in the sky.

This is the second person to do it, I thought it was technically more difficult than Travis’ first attempt.

Terminal velocity is around 195 km/hour (it changes depending on how you shape your body and other variables – you can go faster, that’s how a person who exits the plane after you can catch up) and we got to experience that for about 60 seconds but I was talking to our driver and she happens to be getting her license so I told her I wouldn’t mind jumping out of a plane without a chute when she’s gotten her license.

skydiving student

I was being totally serious btw.

Won’t it be the ultimate rush? You’re just depending on someone else’s chute and there’s so many things that can go wrong before you hook up and do the harness. It’s mind-blowing.

The mere fact that it’s mind-blowing means I have to try it. :)

buttermilk pancakes salmon

Anyway, we headed out for lunch after that in a bright and sunny cafe (with one opt out from being sick from skydiving) – there’s nothing like having buttermilk pancakes with fresh strawberries and bananas doused with honey with a side of smoked salmon that’s equivalent to an entire family packet to get some energy for sea kayaking…

sea kayaking

…which is exactly what we did that same afternoon, to spot dolphins and whales in the sea. I was supposed to pair up with Ringo but she can’t swim and I’m not a good kayaker so I teamed up with Alycia (who could swim) instead. I reckon it’s a great thing coz me and Alycia never overturned our sea kayak (everyone else did).

sea kayaking alycia

#winning

sea kayak

Sea kayaking requires you to power over the surf (this is the most difficult part) as you head out to sea – aligning your sea kayak in a directional wedge against the incoming tide so you can go over the waves and into the calmer seas after the break.

sea kayaking group

It was a lot of fun, just rowing in tandem with Alycia and getting past the rather large incoming waves and then paddling out to sea. I never did quite figure out how to make an emergency turn in the strong tides and I nearly had a hernia pulling the sea kayak back to shore after all that but it was more fun than a barrel of monkeys and Alycia turned out to be an excellent partner. :)

I didn’t remember to bring my waterproof digicam so all the photos are from the Cape Byron Kayaks Facebook page.

…so if you’re wondering just how fun a barrel of monkeys is, AirAsia X is having their Byron Bay & Beyond promotion for just RM 599 all in to Gold Coast now.

lycra

Just remind me never to wear Lycra.

The best of Northern Rivers in Australia

queensland nsw border

I just came back from Australia and we went to Queensland and New South Wales for a proper Northern Rivers experience. We actually landed in Queensland but the border to New South Wales is just about 5 minutes away from the airport. This is the obligatory “straddling the borders” photo and the hotel we stayed in actually has one half in NSW and the other in Queensland! It helps with legislation, they had a casino in one part of the hotel.

wallaby

Here’s some of the fun stuff that we did. Hand feeding a wallaby.

crab pots

Deadliest Catch: New South Wales. I love the series so I’m just going to go “Yeah, sometimes you just have to set the pots and follow your heart. It’s been six weeks out at sea and I think the greenhorn ain’t gonna make it”. Heh! No, seriously, we actually pulled up some crab pots.

yabbie pumping

Yabbie pumping with Irina!

yabbie

Here’s what a yabbie looks like – it has one huge claw and apparently, it’s edible. I wish I could say I caught this one but none of us had any luck with the yabbies.

mud crab

I had the most awesome mud crabs! Just look at the size of the claw. Now imagine sucking off the tender flesh and filling your mouth full of pure fresh crab meat with all the natural juices. I could eat it for the rest of my life!

(if only I can say the same about my relationships)

crab meat

I also learned how to eat it by picking out all the flesh with a crab fork to produce a bowl of sinfully pure crab meat. OMG I just love the way they prepare it, no sauces, just pure fresh crab. I would probably shank you with the crab fork if you took this bowl away from me. NO SHARING! *glares

hand feeding

Alright, don’t try this at home kids. Hand feeding is not recommended. Damn birds have tiny little teeth and they bite.

bacon poached eggs

Double bacon with two poached eggs on Turkish with grilled tomato and rustic potatoes at Cafe d’bar.

surfers

This is the view you’ll get while you’ve having breakfast. I know, it’s amazing. The tiny dots are people surfing.

finger lime

This is an Australian bush finger lime. It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen – shaped like a finger and with perfect pearls of caviar like lime that bursts in your mouth. It’s not as sour as regular limes too.

flutterbie cake

The famous Flutterbie cakes with fresh cream, strawberries and jam in a quaint little cafe at Tyalgum – a tiny town with just a small row of shophouses right in the heartland of the Northern Rivers area. I can camwhore quite well eh? Reckon I got the act cute look down pat in this one. Yup, figure I did. ;)

mavis kitchen

Lunch at Mavis’s Kitchen at Murwillumbah – the acclaimed organic low-food-miles restaurant which is featured in MasterChef.

planking

Yes, you’ve been to Mt Warning…but have you planked in the middle of a road with Mt Warning as the backdrop? ;) Mount Warning is said to be the best place to catch a sunrise in Australia.

cattle auction

Cattle auction at Casino Beef Week in…Casino. Yup, it’s a small town in New South Wales. I just wish they had a casino so I can say I’ve been to a casino in Casino. It was awesome, we sat on bales of hay to watch the auction.

pig

Babe was there too. The pig I mean. No, not that one, you mean, mean person. You outta be ashamed of yourself! The pink pig.

wood chopping

The very manly wood chopping competition. You can just smell the testosterone in the air…and also flying bits of wood chips if you’re not careful.

skydive byron bay

Skydive Byron Bay! Jumping out at 14,000 feet and experiencing a 60 second freefall is pure bliss.

byron bay

Imagine sea kayaking around this bay with the waves crashing through your kayak as you power into the great blue sea. We spotted a pod of dolphins too!

cape byron kayak us

This is the “After” photo with Alycia, my team mate in the kayak. We felt more exhausted than we look, or at least I did. She’s awesome though and we were the only team that didn’t overturn the kayak (insert asterisk for small print). #purewin

byron bay steak

This is the best steak I’ve had, bar none. Medium rare with tender beef that melts in your mouth. It’s at Byron at Byron, the only 5 star resort in Byron Bay. The steak is locally sourced and all the ingredients are from organic farms a couple of miles away. Perfect farewell dinner for the trip.

limo

I wish the trip had lasted longer. Thanks to AirAsia X, Tourism New South Wales and Tourism Northern Rivers for organizing this trip. I really liked the limo. Yup, we had our very own limo, complete with champagne. Move out of the way, important people coming through. ;)

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